Monthly Archives: April 2013

Begging Your Pardon

I’m only getting around to Sidey’s Weekend Theme now, which was “manners”…

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“…. and yes, your bum does look big in that,” said Josef.

Anke, sitting opposite him, smiled.

The tiny statelet of Etteket is in the Alps, unknown to almost everyone. It is an astonishingly beautiful country, with stunning views and carpet-soft ski-slopes, yet they have no tourist industry, because they don’t like to brag about themselves.

They are the best-mannered nation on the planet. Their motto is “nil utterum bono, nil utterum nil”, which roughly translates as “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say nothing at all”.

You may think that living there would be paradise. The people of Etteket would tell you that you would be wrong, or rather they wouldn’t because that would be bad mannered.

And therein lies the problem. The people are polite, almost insanely so. They have been invaded during several wars, if invaded is the correct word to use about a nation who welcome you in with wide smiles, but the invaders usually leave out of boredom after a couple of years, beaten into submission by calm submission.

Their football team lose every game because their opponents have discovered that if they say “excuse me” the players will simply let them through with the ball.

If two Ettekettians ever arrive at a door at the same time, then neither goes through. They simply wave each other forward until one of them collapses from exhaustion.

There are no pub-arguments. There is no political debate. Their anti-drugs slogan is “just say ‘no, thank you’.”

And all of this eventually gets to you. It’s like living at a perpetual cocktail party, full of polite, meaningless conversation.

And so Anke founded Rude Health, a secret, hard-to-find club down a secret, hard-to-find alley, where people can please their inner urge not to please.

There is a farting room. There is a room where you can hit yourself on the thumb with a hammer, and swear long and loud. There is a driving-simulation game in which you can refuse to let cars coming out of side roads into the traffic. You can describe the weather as shite, rather than “not quite as pleasant as one would have hoped”.  There are Simon Cowell outfits (a jet-black wig and nipple-high trousers), which you can wear while you tell imaginary contestants that they sound like an electric toothbrush trapped in a metal bucket. And, as we have seen, customers like Josef can tell a mannequin in jeans that yes, your bum does look big in that.

Oh, sorry, I realise looking back that I may have given the impression in the opening lines that Josef was addressing his comment to Anke.

There is, of course, no country on earth where a man would get away with that.

Another Special Day

He was born ten days late. That sums him up, really.

Tinson2 is one of the most laid-back people on the planet.

He breezes happily thorough life, never seeming to get angry, or upset, or worried. We still sometimes call him “Smod”, which is short for “Smoddler”, which is short for “Smiley Toddler”, the world’s happiest two-year old.

Although I must admit that the smiling toddler followed the angry baby, a child who frankly scared us. Then Tingirl arrived, when he was just eighteen months old, and he became her protector, her comforter and her friend.

He didn’t learn to walk until he was two-and-a-half. He tried it one day, stood and took a couple of steps, then seemed to decide that, since sliding along our wooden floors on his bum was quicker, he wasn’t going to bother (couldn’t be arsed, in fact). It was only when his younger sister started her first tottering steps that he sighed almost audibly, and climbed finally to his feet.

He was the fussiest eater on the planet. He wouldn’t eat fruit, or meat. He wouldn’t drink what he referred to as “fizzery” drinks. He basically lived for the first ten years of his life on milk, and on unbuttered rolls with jam in them. We used to call them “jam-dogs”.

He has rewarded us for this bad parenting by growing taller than either of his siblings, and much taller than us.

He is eighteen today. He has been a lovely child, a happy youth, and from today I’m sure will be a great adult.

We love him and are proud of him. He’s just a super guy.

Happy birthday, Tinson2.

A Week Of WordPress, Day 7

WordPress want me to write about the topic I normally blog about as if I were a music critic. What I mostly blog about is me…

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Tinman’s opera Worth Doing Badly is a piece written in many movements. In other words he writes on the bus both to and from work.

It opens with a long solo of maybe six months, during which he performs unaccompanied. Over time he is joined by a small but wonderful chorus, from all over the world.

He makes extensive use of the organ, that organ being his heart, as during the oft repeated theme “mio busto metallica, repetione?” (“I have a pacemaker, have I mentioned that before?”). The percussion section is much to the fore here, as he keeps banging on and on about it.

The piece has many bold sections, never more so than during the aria “mi multi bradpittzi” (“I am a Stud Muffin”). The brass section is particularly evident here, mostly in his neck, and in the blowing of his own trumpet.

The part played throughout by the wind section cannot be underestimated.

The strings hold the whole thing together, though only barely.  Some parts are “allegro”, meaning that he wrote them in a hurry. Most of the work is falsetto.

He keeps away from the very lowest part of the range. For example in this very piece here he has resisted the urge to use the word “flute”.

My enjoyment of the piece would have been improved by greater use of the Harp. Or possibly the Guinness. Any drink I could have got my hands on really.

I think that Tinman should attempt a ballet next.

If you want to see a load of balls, then he is definitely your man.

A Week Of WordPress, Day 6

WordPress want me to go to a favourite blog and write a companion piece to its penultimate post. Since I don’t want to risk upsetting any of my blogmates (they write sadly about the death of their cat, I add a frivolous piece about cat heaven), I took the penultimate post on WordPress’s Freshly Pressed section this morning. They described the post as  “What happens after you earn tenure? One professor explains” and without reading it, in case I made fun of it in any way, I simply wrote to the description…

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It had taken many years, a lot of theses (by which I mean more than one thesis, not the use of the word “these” several  times), tons of research and the heavy use of Wikipedia, but finally the board of Lake Snowdrop University, Idaho, had offered me a permanent position. It was like passing some sort of initiation, though without the hazing and being dumped naked on Interstate 53 (though that did in fact happen, but only because of a misunderstanding with a girl with some really protective brothers).

I, Professor Henry Walton Jones, Indiana to my friends, Junior to my Dad, that eejit in the hat to my students, was in as Professor of Archaeology. I went into the staff room that first morning, eager to mix with the finest academic minds in the state.

Or Not. The Professor of Media Studies was watching TV, which might have classified as work in his case had he not been watching Sesame Street. The Professor of Creative Creationism was drinking, although it was nine in the morning. Professor of Marine Psychology was asleep, or quite possibly dead.

“Ah, Jones,” said the Professor of Vital Statistics, “welcome. Here’s the key to your office, it’s on the fifth floor of the East Wing.”

I headed out of the door and up towards my room. As I started up the stairs I looked up in astonishment.

A giant round boulder was rolling down towards me.

I hurled myself to one side, crashing through a door. And found myself in the college football team’s cheerleaders’ changing room.

I fled in a hail of screams and hurled underwear, and continued my trip upstairs. Five yards further on I stood on a particular step, then ducked as a hail of poisoned darts shot from the wall. One of them plucked a bra from my hat and pinned it to a skull resting against the far wall, obviously that of a predecessor who had not been as lucky.

When I reached the next flight of steps the floor suddenly slid to one side. I coiled my whip around an overhead beam, and dangled from it above a pit full of snakes.

I hate snakes.

I managed to swing to safety. I climbed the last few flights of stairs, fought off a group of Nazis who had appeared from some reason, wrestled a mummy (her son had wanted my job), and tripped (by tripping on) a secret lever, causing a ray of light to shine into the corridor that horribly melted the head of the Head of Ancient Studies, who had apparently set all of the traps, as he had felt that my position would make his redundant.

As I approached my office a brick wall had sliding down to seal it shut, but I slid under it just before it closed. The room wasn’t big enough to swing a whip in, it was old and musty, and I hadn’t a clue how I was going to get out, but I smiled happily to myself.

In my time I had found the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom and the Crystal Skull, but now I had tenure.

It’s the Holy Grail of Academia.

A Week Of WordPress, Day 5

WordPress ask us to “Craft a scene in which you meet an opposite version of yourself”….

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I was sitting in a coffee shop, working on my blog, when a voice said “Are you writing a story?”

“No, I’m crafting a scene,” I said, a little proudly. “WordPress says so.”

“Your name’s Tinman, isn’t it?”

I looked up then, and felt somehow that I was looking at myself. I’m not sure how I felt that, I’m short, with brown hair and brown eyes, whereas the other person was tall, with blonde hair and sapphire-blue eyes.

And she was a girl.

We were both gorgeous, so we did at least have something in common.

“How did you know my name?” I asked.

“I sensed you as soon as I came in here,” she said. “You’re a regangleppod.”

I frowned. “Have you just insulted me in Welsh?” I asked.

“Look, let me explain,” she said. She sat down opposite me, then looked deep into my eyes. It felt oddly familiar, yet disturbing, as if we were soulmates but she had just punched me in the soul.

“It feels like looking into a mirror, doesn’t it?” she said. “And in a way it is, because just as a mirror shows everything backwards, you are the exact opposite of me. Apart from us both being gorgeous, of course, I don’t understand how that happened.”

She had a habit of flicking her hair back as she talked. I never do that, though it’s mainly because I don’t have enough hair.

“You know how they say that everyone has a doppelganger?” she continued, “Someone on the planet who is exactly the same as them? Well, everyone also has a regangleppod, someone their exact opposite. You and I are unkindred spirits, and I don’t mean that unkindly.”

“How do you know all of this stuff?” I said.

“I’m a Professor of String-Theory Physics at Trinity College,” she said.

“String Theory?” I said.

“Yes, it means that we’re all connected by a metaphysical piece of string,” she said.

“I see,” I said, “and you and I are one of those knots that you can’t undo without breaking a fingernail.”

“Exactly. And to answer your question, I knew that you’d be called Tinman, because my name is Namnit.”

“Er, that’s not a girl’s name you hear very often.”

“It means ‘brightest blossom on the flower of true enlightenment’ in Sanskrit,” she said. “And Tinman’s an odd name for a guy,” she said, “unless your parents were obsessed with Judy Garland.”

“No, I have it because I have a pacemaker in my chest,” I said.

“Well, I have fake boobs,” she said, “so perhaps we’re not quite as different as we thought.”

I stared at her. “A professor with fake boobs?”

She blushed. “I am still a woman,” she said. “And it’s so hard to get guys interested in you when your IQ is so much higher than theirs that they’d need snookers even to get it close.”

“I see your problem,” I said.

“And what do you work at?” she said, then clapped one hand to her mouth. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. It obviously has to be something really mundane and unimportant.”

“I’m a firefighter,” I said defiantly.

She raised one eyebrow.

“Ok, I work in an office,” I mumbled.

We both smiled. “Do you know, it really has been nice to meet you, Tinman.”

“And you,” I said, holding out my hand.

“Oh, we can’t touch,” she said. “It would be like the sun touching a black hole. It would destroy the galaxy.”

“Oh,” I said. “Then there’s no point using my ’opposites attract’ chat-up line, I suppose.”

She smiled again, and stood up. “It would be safest if we left separately,” she said.

I watched her as she walked towards the door. She had fabulous legs with an astonishingly pert bum swaying gently above them.

“I know what you’re doing,” she said, without turning around, “and you should stop it. Since we’re basically each other in reverse, it’s like looking out of your own arse.”

A Week Of WordPress, Day 4

WordPress’s prompt is called Freaky Friday, and says “Who would you like to have spend a day as you and what do you hope they’d learn from the experience?”

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It was cold in the office that morning, colder than the heart of my ex-wife at my alimony hearing. The door opened and a guy walked in. I could tell just from looking at him that he was the sort of guy who was used to giving orders, by his expensive tie, his tailored suit, his shoes so shiny I could see up his trouser legs.

“Tinman?” he said.

“You’re lookin’ at him,” I said.

“I know,” he said. “You’ve been working here for seven years.”

That was probably another reason why I knew he was used to giving orders. It seems he was my boss.

At least he was today. I went to bed last night as just an ordinary private dick, and woke up this morning, as a blues singer would say, to find that I was someone else. Apparently it’s something called Freaky Friday, you get to be another person for a day. I’d been this Tinman guy for half the morning now, and I seemed to have a job more boring than a Jennifer Aniston movie, a mug that said “you don’t have to be crazy to work here – it’s just co-incidence that I am” and a desk drawer full of paper-clips instead of scotch.

It seems that I was still a dick.

“You gotta job for me?” I said.

“I need a report done,” he said.

I was a bit worried by this. My reports tend to be about cheating husbands, pilfering House-staff or people who claimed insurance because they were dead, while they were actually lap-dancing in Poland, or sometimes pole-dancing in Lapland. I didn’t think he’d be interested in any of these.

There was a second desk in the room. I nodded towards it.

“Couldn’t he do it?” I asked.

“Joe’s off,” he said. “Swimming with dolphins.”

That was enough. If people who messed with this guy ended up swimming with the fishes, then messing was not gonna be coming from me.

“You’ll have your report by lunchtime,” I said. “What’s it about?”

“I need to know the total expenses for the last quarter,” he said.

I brightened up quicker than a light-bulb in a, well, light-socket. If there’s one thing a private detective knows how to build a report about, it’s expenses.

I spent the morning putting down random figures for phone calls, for gas, for pills to cure gas. I put in flights to Dubrovnik, Dunedin and Dublin, even though  we were in Dublin. I put in for meals for each employee, sometimes eleven in one day. I put in a bill for hiring a private detective (the real me) to vet new employees, and for a vet to vet the fish for the aquarium in the lobby. Finally I put in two hundred quid for the cost of printing the report (I actually just photocopied it) and left it on the boss’s desk.

I think he might shut the company down if he actually believes how expensive the report says it is to run.

As I left at lunchtime I walked out past the receptionist. She was a real doll. She had more curves than a Yankees pitcher in a game against the Red Sox, legs the length of the Lord Of The Rings box-set and a great pair of baps, which she was going to eat for her lunch.

“Hi, gorgeous,” I said.

“Get stuffed, Tinman,” she replied.

I got through an afternoon as dull as a sunny day in Tipperary, went to Tinman’s local on the way home, and drank something called Guinness. It doesn’t just beat scotch, it swings it round its head, throws it onto the ground and jumps on it. I’m never going to drink anything else.

And what did I learn from it all? Well, if you want to walk a mile in somebody’s shoes, try to make sure you both have the same size feet.

When I wake up tomorrow I’ll be back in my own life. I’ll be lied to by dames, beaten up by crooks, shot at by mistake.

I can’t wait.